The U.S. Supreme Court on May 18, 2023 delivered its decision on the scope of the patent enablement requirement, set forth in 35 U.S.C. § 112, in the antibody dispute Amgen, Inc. v. Sanofi. While the parties obtained finality, many in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries received the opinion under a cloud of uncertainty and concern for exclusivity rights broad enough to both protect clinical candidates and deter competitors. While the patent bar may remain apprehensive, the Supreme Court kept the door open to genus claims. The impact of the decision may not be as far-reaching as feared.
In the United States, the scale of trade secret theft is estimated to be between $180 billion and $450 billion annually. Among the targets of this theft are pharmaceutical companies, which are some of the most research-intensive institutions in the world. Pharmaceutical research generally requires extensive work and often generates proprietary data that is pivotal to shaping pharmaceutical development. Because that data may be very attractive to threat actors, pharmaceutical companies employ various measures to protect their proprietary information, these measures may sometimes fall short. A November 2021 trade secret misappropriation suit brought by Venn Therapeutics (“Venn”) against Corbus Pharmaceuticals (“Corbus”) in the District Court for the Middle District of Florida highlights the issues that can arise despite a company’s best efforts to protect its trade secrets.
In the wake of the nomination of Kathi Vidal as Director of the USPTO, there will be significant attention paid to the agency’s responses to calls from both the executive and legislative branches to remake the agency’s perceived role in shaping the pharmaceutical pricing landscape.
How is orphan drug exclusivity affected when the FDA-approved use for an orphan drug is arguably narrower than the treatment of the rare disease it was designated for?
By way of background, a sponsor can obtain orphan drug exclusivity when the FDA approves an application for a drug that has first been designated under 21 U.S.C. § 360bb of the Orphan Drug Act (ODA) for a “rare disease or condition.” Id. § 360cc(a). Except in any of three statutorily prescribed circumstances (§§ 360cc(b), (c)), the FDA cannot approve another application for the “same drug” for “the same disease or condition” for seven years after the first approval.